Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘War’ Category

WHAT DO AIS AND DATING SITE SCAMS HAVE IN COMMON? PLUS JUNE 22ND

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So I’ve been checking out some dating sites lately. They’ve come a long way since I last looked. And I’ve been there the whole time, I did computer dating in the late 1970s. And that was one computer nerd who wrote a program and advertised it locally, in Davis, USA. Worked for me, it hooked up my housemate to a girl I dated for years, was friends with for decades. Now, it’s much more sophisticated. And the scammers are as well. Well, scammers and sex workers. Neither of which I have a problem with. Hey, poor people in the second and third world want to scam gullible Americans out of their money, go for it. And sex workers can’t advertise openly and safely because this is Kristian Amerika, so they have to do so subtly on dating and rental sites. I digress.

So seeing as I have no interest in sending money to scammers or seeking the services of sex workers, I need to figure out how to filter out same. The sex workers are pretty easy, if their pics involve T&A shots with a sparse profile looking for hookups: sex worker. The scammers, boy, they have gotten a lot more sophisticated. The best ones have very real looking profiles. And when messaged, the responses can be well written as well. They tend to have a cut and paste look though, IE neat message, but only superficially at best a response to my prior message. And when I suspect a scammer, I ask a very specific question. Or better yet, say something completely nonsensical. Jeez, sent a nonsense response to one, got an obvious cut and paste message to the effect of “Wow, thanks for sharing that information with me.” Busted.

So, I realized I am essentially running a variant of the Turing Test on possible scammers. The Turing Test is basically the idea of interfacing with a subject via text exchange and determining if it is a human or a computer. Brilliant concept really, because it doesn’t concern itself with whether a computer can become conscious and self aware, it limits the question to, can a software program fake human responses enough to fool humans?

And we’re real close folks. We are close to the point where it’s going to be hard to tell if we are interacting with a person or software. Phone a business, will one be talking to software or a person? And think about this. How many professions are essentially ‘talking to people?’ The ones that can run remotely, a Zoom image or whatever works as well. The image of a person on a video feed is just pixels on a screen, all manipulable by software. AIs are going to put a lot of people out of work, every telemarketer on the planet for starters.

As for pixels on a screen, that’s what movies and TV series are, right? So why couldn’t an AI create movies? It’s just a more sophisticated chess calculator. Or series. There have to be an infinite number of possible ‘Simpsons’ episodes, right? So why couldn’t software write new ones? Think of it, every TV show or movie the gentle reader ever liked available with countless computer generated sequels/episodes. Young Sean Connery could star in thousands of James Bond films. Peeps will be able to buy software that will create movies or series to order.

Will this happen soon? IDK, technology was running ahead of application during the US Civil War, the gap has increased since then. Is there as yet some human component to creativity that AIs won’t be able to surpass? Maybe. One thing we can say for sure about the future, no one has ever accurately predicted it.

The past though, we can see how predictions went wrong. June 22nd 1941, eighty years ago today, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Operation Barbarossa, the greatest invasion in history. Tens of millions would die as a result. Exactly three years later, June 22nd 1944, the Soviet Union launched Operation Bagration. AKA “The Destruction of Army Group Center.” Germany’s Army Group Center. The greatest defeat ever suffered by Germany, and the fifth bloodiest campaign in European history. No one predicted that, most thought that Germany would easily conquer Western Russia, and who knows what would happen then. A crushing German defeat with Soviet Armies steamrolling to Berlin three years later, couldn’t happen.

Could an AI have written that plot? Maybe. Did an AI write that plot? Could we be living in a 23rd century computer game program on some kid’s Qpad? Am I a software routine writing a blog that will only be read by other aps? And do we evolve as a result? Hell if I know, but I’m going to explore the idea more.

So, yes. My blogging has been limited because of … personal … issues. I think I’m going to write about speculative weirdness to see if I can break through my writer’s block. Stay safe and sanish everyone. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Two destroyed German tanks during Operation Bagration, including dead German crew members. There are still people alive who remember the horrors of Germany’s invasion of Russia. I can’t imagine what they lived through. Credit: Unknown, public domain image under all known copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

June 22, 2021 at 7:55 pm

JUNE 6, 1944, THE LONGEST DAY

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A long time reader suggested some history posts instead of the GOP follies. It would be a nice break. And the timing is perfect, today is the 77th anniversary of the greatest seaborne invasion in history, Operation Overlord, the Allied landings in Normandy in German occupied France during the second World War. And I know a lot about it, as it was a famous battle in my favorite war.  I’ve probably covered most if not all of the following in previous blogs, but there’s always the possibility of a new reader or two.

So yes, D-Day was the largest amphibious landing in history. 24,000 paratroopers landed the night before, and 156,000 men (and one woman we know of) waded ashore on D-Day. About 4,000 of them died, another 6,000 were seriously injured. About a thousand Germans died, and thousands more were wounded. And several thousand French civilians also died. A pretty modest death toll for a single day of fighting actually. While thousands more would die in the weeks to come, it wasn’t a particularly deadly battle compared to numerous other battles. Hell, over 20,000 died in one day at the Battle of Towton, and that was in 1461.

D-Day also has the distinction of being the most carefully planned military operation in history. Years were spent preparing for it. All sorts of special weapons and equipment were invented for just this one battle. Hell, hundreds died in preparation for the battle. How many battles had over 700 dead preparing for the battle? Damn few, so D-Day might be the worst in history in this regard too. On the plus side, the double catastrophes in Exercise Tiger taught the Allies valuable lessons, and no doubt saved hundreds if not thousands of lives on D-Day.

And since D-Day was so well planned, it really couldn’t fail. While Ike (the overall commander) did have a message pre-written in case the landing failed, there really wasn’t any realistic chance of that. The German defences weren’t even remotely finished, the Germans had fallen for the Allies misdirection and concentrated their defences elsewhere, and overwhelming Allied air power and French resistance attacks crippled the German ability to rush reinforcements to Normandy. The Allies flew over 10,000 air missions on D-Day, the Luftwaffe, a 100 or so. No contest. The only real way the invasion could have failed is if spectacularly bad weather had set in for weeks after the landing grounding the Allies air power. None of this diminishes the accomplishments of those who took part in the invasion, it was a hard fought battle.

Some Americans love to claim D-Day was the “turning point” in the war. No, no it wasn’t. Stalingrad and Kursk were the turning points in the war. By the summer of 1944 the Russian juggernaut was rolling inevitably toward Berlin, it was just a matter of time. D-Day hastened the end of the Third Reich, and meant Western Europe and West Germany didn’t become Soviet occupied countries, but it didn’t affect the outcome of the war. D-Day was the beginning of the end for Hitler is a good way to think about it.

In the same vein Americans often think D-Day was an American affair. In “Saving Private Ryan” for example, the British are only mentioned once, disparagingly; and the Canadians aren’t mentioned at all. In point of fact, five beaches were invaded that day, two by Americans, two by the British, and one by Canadians. While America certainly provided the lion’s share of troops and weapons for the western Allies, only about 40% of the troops wading ashore on 6 June 1944 were American.

Lastly, a nice story. There were lots of specials about D-Day on the 50th anniversary in 1994. I remember one story. There was a kid from I think Nebraska who waded ashore on D-Day. He survived, and the war ended. He had some leave before returning to America. He decided to visit Normandy because he had been struck by how beautiful the countryside was. (Pretty much anyone who grew up in Nebraska will think that way about almost anywhere but Nebraska, but I digress.) Well, while there he met this nice French girl, and the rest is history. He was still happily living there as of 1994. And I bet he never had to pay for his drinks at local bars.

In any event, tonight I will drink to all that fought that day. God rest the souls of those who died. Well, all but the Nazis. I still think Nazis are bad, call me old fashioned. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: American dead on Utah Beach.  Note the body has been tagged with information about who he was, when and where he died, etc. Real people died that day, war really is madness. Credit: Probably Robert Capa.)

Written by unitedcats

June 6, 2021 at 12:23 pm

MEMORIAL DAY

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wars. The US has been at war 222 out of 239 years. More than 92% of its existence. And even that’s an under count, there really was no peace during the 19th century because of ongoing efforts by individuals and state militias to exterminate the natives. And virtually none of the wars were just wars in any way, shape, or form. That has been especially true in the post World War Two era.

Memorial Day 2021. This is the day where Americans honor those who died fighting in America’s wars. Well, that’s the theory at least. Unfortunately the way many people are honoring our dead strikes me as the exact opposite of honor. The day has been turned into a propaganda fest in support of America’s endless wars. The US has been at war 222 out of 239 years. More than 92% of its existence. And even that’s an undercount, there really was no peace during the 19th century because of ongoing efforts by individuals and state militias to exterminate the natives. And virtually none of the wars were just wars in any way, shape, or form. That has been especially true in the post World War Two era.

And yet all over Facebook, and all over the country presumably, people are posting and talking about fallen heroes who died “defending our freedom.” This is obscene. Every war since 1945 has been about defending America’s global empire and its corporate interests. Every American who died in these wars was a life wasted in service of the empire. And the memory of those whose lives were tossed away on the altar of corporate and political greed has been turned into a celebration of death and empire.

I grieve for those lost in our wars. I will honor their loss by continuing to speak for peace. The greatest thing an American can do to honor the fallen is stop supporting further war. Stop sending our youth abroad to die and be maimed in the service of corporate greed. The US is the most powerful empire the world has ever seen, there are no threats to our freedom. Outside the US at least, certain parties are working hard to destroy our freedom from within.

But that’s tomorrow’s blog. I hope all have or had a good Memorial Day. God rest the souls of those who died in America’s uniform, grant peace to their friends and family. #getvaccienatedcovid19 #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: From Facebook, attribution in image, used without permission, claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

May 31, 2021 at 7:50 am

BOMBS AWAY, LITERAL AND FIGURATIVE

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There’s been a lot of, well, violent oppression in Israel and its occupied territories lately. More innocents dead. It’s not really a complicated or nuanced situation. Israel invaded and conquered the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, and since then has refused to either annex them or allow them to declare independence, whilst slowly stealing their land, destroying their homes, farms, infrastructure; and periodically waging war on them. Sometimes the Palestinians fight back, but the violence is overwhelmingly on Israel’s part, and the innocent dead are overwhelmingly Palestinian.

I’d say “what a mess,” but that implies it’s some sort of intractable problem where both “sides” are to blame. Nope, Israel has all the power, all the weapons, all the advantages including the unconditional and uncritical backing of the US. Israel has deliberately perpetuated the situation by denying the Palestians their rights, essentially keeping them as stateless prisoners in open air prisons. It’s not aparteid. It’s much uglier than apartheid. And as long as the US and the international community give Israel their unqualified support, Israel has no incentive to do anything but continue their slow ethnic cleansing of Gaza and the West Bank. Pointing out the injustice of this isn’t antisemitism, it’s just stating the truth.

Speaking of stating the truth, Liz Cheney, the now former GOP leader of the House, has been stripped of her position. She refuses to believe in and support Trump’s lies: Trump lost the election, and he incited a mob to storm the capitol. Not debatable. Trump though is cementing his control of the GOP and, well, inciting a purge. It’s made his remaining supporters more fanatical, while driving away huge numbers of conservatives who have decided enough’s enough. Pretending that Trump was this fantastic president was easy, but at this point Trump is indeed destroying the foundations of our democracy in his obsession with “not being a loser.”

And by driving away, I mean just that. Trump’s popularity has plummeted since the election, which is unprecedented for a former president. He’s at like 32% now, as I’ve been saying all along, about a third of the country is behind him. Some of the Republicans who have abandoned Trump are threatening to create a new party. The “No Homers” party. OK, that was a really old Simpsons joke, IDK what they propose to call it. And honestly, good show. The chances of Trump getting reelected in 2024 are basically zero if he can’t rally all the Republicans back to him. Fine by me.

And there’s definitely schadenfreude on my part here, the GOP lied for decades, sowing the field for someone like Trump. Granted the Dems aren’t exactly paragons of truth and justice, but Fox News and the GOP normalized lying about basic facts. And now a guy who lives in his own made up reality where he lies about everything is running their show. Makes me curious to know if something similar preceded the rise of other personality cult leaders in history. Fodder for future research and blogs.

Speaking of lying cult leaders, a Federal judge has slapped down Wayne Lapierre’s attempt to declare the NRA bankrupt. Basically turns out the NRA had a huge corruption problem, with the people at the top essentially looting at will. They got caught and the state of New York began legal proceedings. Mr Lapierre tried to declare the NRA bankrupt in what was a brazen attempt to get away with the goods. Using the letter of the law to evade the intent of the law usually only works in Hollywood movies, it’s why we have judges. Again, schadenfreude time. Though not really. It’s not really shameful joy when the parties involved brought it on themselves. Just joy.

In other news:: President Joe Biden Approves Nation’s First Major Offshore Wind Farm. 85 wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts. It will produce enough electricity to power 400,000 homes. Hopefully it’s just the first, the nation’s offshore wind power potential is twice the current total energy output of the US. I am however deeply disappointed by Mr Biden in this. What was he thinking? It should have been placed off the coast of Mar-a-Lago. Hope all are having a good week. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Palestinians fleeing Israeli ethnic cleansing in 1948. Public Domain image. Mar-a-Lago joke credit: FearlessFly.)

Written by unitedcats

May 12, 2021 at 7:16 pm

BIDEN BACKS UKRAINE’S CONFRONTATION WITH RUSSIA, THIS COULD GET UGLY

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Germans bombing Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine in 1941. Ukraine in living memory has suffered terribly at the hands of non-Ukrainians: Nazi Germans and Stalinist Russians. So a lot of bad blood there. That’s the background. Jumping ahead, both Bush and Obama tangled with Russia over border disputes between Russia and its neighbors. In both cases Russia was defending ethnic Russians or long time allies of Russia.

Bush encouraged Georgia to believe it had American support in the event of a confrontation with Russia. Two small breakaway provinces of Georgia had decided during the collapse of the Soviet Union that they wanted to be part of Russia, dammit; there had been blood spilt, but Russia ‘peacekeeping’ troops ensured their de facto independence from Georgia. Sashakvili, the leader of Georgia, attacked these troops in an effort to reincorporate the breakaway provinces  into Georgia. The Russians responded with overwhelming force. Bush told them to back off. Putin said “talk to the hand;” and Russian troops beat the crap out of the Georgian military, invading Georgia itself in the process. Georgia came to its senses, granted the two minor provinces to Russia, and that was that.

Then Obama took his turn. An anti-Russian coup took place in Ukraine, the US immediately proclaimed it legitimate, and the new rulers wasted no time passing laws that made ethnic Russians into second class citizens. The local government of Crimea then voted to join Russia, they held a plebiscite which also overwhelmingly voted to join Russia. Since, you know, Crimea had been part of Russia for centuries, and was populated almost entirely by ethnic Russians. Putin promptly annexed Crimea, and Obama was left with explaining how he had “lost Crimea.” And to this day Russia defending Russia, Russians and its allies is characterized as “Russian aggression.” Technically correct the same way that any chess player making a move can be characterized as the aggressor.

And now it looks like Biden is going to try his hand at facing off with Russia over its disputes with Ukraine. So freaking similar to Rome’s wars with Persia that it’s somewhere between scary and silly. Have we learned nothing? I digress. There are two eastern provinces of Ukraine that also saw pro Russian revolts, where the ethnic Russians declared a sort of independence from Ukraine. Supported by Russia. And there’s where the current problem is. Russia has built up troops there in case they “need” to protect Russians in Ukraine.

Will Ukraine “invade” its two eastern provinces, a replay of Georgia’s invasion of South Ossetia? I hope not. Putin outmaneuvered Bush and Obama, I’d bet on him vs Biden and his handlers any day. Russia has nuclear weapons too, so it seems crazy to do anything that could provoke war with them. Ans as well Russia can easily field conventional forces that could crush Ukraine’s military in a conventional war. So if Ukraine does something stupid, it’s because they think the US will back them.

How will this play out? No one knows. I give a 50% chance something further stupid will happen. And there’s a 1-10% chance something awful to history changing will happen. Is Biden really a senile old fool, or a sociopathic mimic of the first order who will do what the Washington elite says? My bet is on the latter, hopefully we won’t find out. I guess if I get to see ‘Life meets Jericho,’ there are worse fates.

Have a great weekend everyone. Get a Covid vaccine as soon as you can, Covid is looking like a worse disease all the time. Stay safe. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

PS: And in the 24 hours since I started writing this, the situation has deteriorated: US Warships to Enter Black Sea in ‘Significant Signal’ to Russia, Russia Prepared for ‘Worst Scenario’ With Possible US Sanctions, and Ukraine’s Top Commander Invokes NATO’s Article 5 Military Assistance Clause as West Continues to Oversee Ukraine’s War in the Donbass. Fun times.

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Used legally:This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. Attribution: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-B12190 / Kraagranger [Kraayvanger] / CC-BY-SA 3.0 )

Written by unitedcats

April 9, 2021 at 7:41 pm

Posted in 2021, Biden, Russia, Ukraine, War

BIDEN, INFRASTRUCTURE, OIL, WAR, RAPE IN THE NEWS

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Biden tells Johnson they should build massive global infrastructure plan to rival China. Well, when is the US going to invest in its own antiquated and failing infrastructure? Biden didn’t say. He did say this though about China, Washington fear mongering at its best:

“They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch.”

No Mr Biden, it’s America that is obsessed with being the most powerful country in the world, it’s America that sees everything in terms of rivalry. This is a nice article that ties into that mindset: The Origins of America’s Unique and Spectacular Cruelty. I was particularly struck by the point that a ridiculously high percentage of the American economy is profit driven. Like health care for example, no other nation has allowed giant corporations to turn health care into a profit making industry. It’s the major reason our healthcare system is so obscenely expensive compared to other countries. The whole idea that somehow profit is the best way to motivate institutions to do a good job is somewhere between silly and sick, though a lot closer to sick. It’s warped our thinking about so many things.

While I’m detailing America’s faults, here’s another: US Fossil Fuel Companies Get a Shocking Amount of Implicit Subsidies Each Year. It’s only shocking to people who haven’t been paying attention. More than $50 billion in the US, nearly a trillion dollars annually over the entire globe. Coal being far and away the worst, if coal power had to pay the health and environmental costs of mining and burning coal, it would all stay in the ground right where it is because there’d be no profit in mining it and burning it for power. Just another way the economy of the world is geared towards making obscene profits for the few by passing the costs onto the public. Ain’t capitalism grand?

Lastly, it really needs to be repeatedly said that America is one of the most warlike (as in endlessly waging wars) nations the world has ever seen. It’s insanely expensive, and not only unnecessary, it’s actually causing terrible harm. And yet here we are. Waging war around the world, suffering a terrible level of domestic gun violence, and most Americans are just oblivious to it. It’s really weird if one steps back and looks at it. No other country built a giant fleet of bomber carrying ships and uses them constantly to bomb people around the world. Your tax dollars at work.

So yeah, speaking of surreal (welcome to America,) the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that if a woman is drunk when she meets a man, he can’t be charged with raping an incapacitated victim. Say what? They are literally saying if a man drugs his victim or gets her drunk, he can be charged with raping an incapacitated woman … but if she was already drugged or drunk, it’s not quite rape? He is going to be retried on a lesser charge, but people are outraged. I am certainly with those who say Minnesota rape law needs to be rewritten.

Oh, the trial of George Flyod’s killer started. Hopefully it will proceed to a sane conclusion, and there will be no unrest. Blog fodder if there is. Um, windy as hell in Northern Iowa. Trump cultists are still predicting his imminent return to the White House. Worse, the GOP seems to be running with “Biden winning was a coup.” Stupider and far more mainstream than birtherism, yeah, American politics not looking good. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula #dearMoonCrew

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Snappygoat image of the USS Kitty Hawk, Public Domain image.)

Written by unitedcats

March 29, 2021 at 8:03 pm

WHAT HAPPENED HERE?

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Neat photo, eh? What happened here? That is the remnant of a concrete building, the metal is indeed rebar. Thick iron rods embedded in concrete, in fact this is what reinforced concrete is, concrete with metal bars in it. No, nuclear weapon damage. In fact this damage was done by a natural phenomena. I’ll give the answer at the end of the blog.

I get my Covid vaccine on Wednesday, knock on wood. Not sure which version it is, doesn’t matter. I’ve kept current on vaccines all my life with no problems, this one will be a blessed relief. It doesn’t by any means I can just go back to “pre-Covid” behaviour. Well, I suppose I could, but it would be stu-pid. Like “OK, I’ve got a seat belt now, let’s crash my car for fun!” stupid. Vaccines are not necessarily 100% effective, and this is a terrible disease, one best avoided if at all possible. So I’ll still be masking in public and socially isolated, but I will be less stressed about it and will resume outdoor socializing with friends, maybe indoor with vaccinated friends.

Huge numbers of people being vaccinated world wide, good news. Bad news, and it is indeed very bad news, this isn’t going to magically return the world to its pre-Covid state. We aren’t going to be able to say “Phew, it’s under control now, throw away your masks and parteh!” That’s because Covid is unlike any previous disease, it’s a terrible disease, and it’s not going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere for two reasons. First of all it’s the disease from hell. Second of all, people are stupid.

By disease from hell, I mean it’s a terrible, highly contagious, widespread disease … that is mutating as I type! New strains have emerged that are even more contagious than the original version, more likely to reinfect Covid survivors, and at least somewhat resistant to some or all of the current vaccines. And new versions will continue to evolve, so vaccines will have to be continually updated. This is a war that will likely continue the rest of our lives.

Secondly, many people, including some US state governors, are simply pretending everything is now OK and lifting all restrictions. This is literally bat shit crazy, but welcome to the American 2020s where the GOP lives in pretend reality. As long as people continue to pretend that Covid is no big deal or just a temporary thing, especially people in power, we’re effed. And that would definitely be America, as someone put it, a state lifting precautions is like a designated peeing area in a pool. Here’s the good doctor on the science: COVID Race Against Time | NeuroLogica Blog.

So trying to parse just when the American  right exited reality, today’s theory is that it was after Gulf War Two, the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Anniversary coming up. Before the invasion there was much public debate, the right claiming Iraq and Saddam were an existential threat to the US, and we needed to invade to eliminate Saddam’s WMDs. This was right after 9/11, so Americans were afraid of mass casualty attacks. And as a codicil to this, they argued that the people of Iraq would be happy to have Saddam removed and freedom and democracy bestowed upon them! On the other side people argued that the threat posed by Saddam was at least wildly overblown, and that nothing good would come of this invasion.

At least there was debate about the potential war, and common ground to debate about. Saddam and Iraq actually existed, the debate was about what America should do about it. The “Invade Iraq!” faction won (not that there was ever any doubt,) Iraq was invaded and conquered easily! The results, twofold: First,  exactly dip squat was found of any WMDs, Saddam had in fact destroyed his WMD programs exactly as he was told to. Secondly, democracy and freedom didn’t flow through the streets, mass bloodshed and instability did. Continuing to this day.

So let’s review. Turns out the 2003 Iraq invasion was utterly unjustified, and the results were catastrophic by any reasonable measure. After Vietnam at least there was some general agreement that the war was a mistake, after Saddam’s fall turned into a nightmare, nothing doing. The War Party, and that includes plenty of Dems, just carried on as if everything was fine. Not surprising it was all coincidental with birtherism and trutherism, the two other big fact free beliefs of the post 9/11 era.

The wheel is spinning, who knows where it will land. There’s people who think about things, and people who find someone comfortable to think for them. Both have an evolutionary advantage I suppose. I write for the former. I hope. So, image above. Came across that because a friend asked if the Romans who died in Pompei died quickly? Yes, yes they did. Pompei was hit by a nue ardente, or pyroclastic flow. Basically super hot gas (450F plus degrees) and molten rock ash. Flowing faster than a person can run. Like being tossed into a blast furnace. A windy blast furnace. And that’s what the image above is, a reinforced concrete building in Mexico hit by a pyroclastic flow in 1982. Killed at least 1900 people. From a dormant volcano. Oops.

Stay safe everyone. Crazy days. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(image: Described in text. Taken by a USGS employee as part of their job, so public domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

March 8, 2021 at 9:33 pm

Posted in History, Iraq, Personal, War

STRANGE DAYS, WEIRD TIMES IN AMERICA

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Came across this article: The United States is visibly in an early stage of disintegration, as the Internet changes before my eyes. Tonight’s recommended read. Both the left and the right are claiming Internet censorship, both are right in that there’s a struggle to control the narrative on the Internet, but suggesting it is some monolithic entity like liberals (The Right’s Straw Man nonsense,) to the Tech Giants/government (In the Left’s fear that progressive views are being shut out,) isn’t supported by evidence or reason.  Damned if I know what is going on, but the times are a changing rapidly. Both America and the world are in difficult times.

The recommended article about the U.S. being in disintegration had some false arguments in it, but factually it was right on the money. By any rational metrics the US is way sick. All the gains in the economy the past four decades have gone to the people at the tippy top. Legalized corruption on a breathtaking scale. Our infrastructure is a decaying joke, our public education and health little better, the shame of the developed world. Our military eats up all the money the rich don’t get, and the rich profit handsomely from it to boot.

We haven’t won a war for decades despite massive military spending, but we have this global military empire fighting low level wars all over the planet. Is there some plan to this? No. And our new Caesar, Biden, has made it clear he’s going to keep it all up. So there’s that. And, well, half the white population is convinced that  all of America’s problems are caused by everyone else …  in this big violent liberal conspiracy to destroy America somehow. Freaking weird people.

And Covid is ravaging America like no other country because our ruling class is so dysfunctional. Isn’t that a diplomatic way of putting it? So it’s not a good look for the largest empire the world has ever seen. America is kind of the New Byzantine Empire. I could write a blog about that alone, but not tonight. Huge, corrupt, archaic, a hollow empire, not adapting well to the changing world. An empire where a rich province is struck by a natural disaster, and the results are far worse than they could have been because it is in a corrupt dysfunctional empire; and the Right blames the liberals and green power. Like Trump’s claims about election fraud, the idea that green energy and AOC(!) are responsible for Texas’s poor response to a blizzard are both silly and easily factually refuted. Future historians will have fun with America in the 2020s. I mean, I’m a contemporary, and it’s crazy to me.

On the plus side, sort of a side effect to all this madness, a Golden Age of Solar System exploration. NASA just landed the most sophisticated robot lander ever on Mars. It takes 3-22 minutes to get radio messages to Mars, so real time communication is impossible, probes have to do some things, like landing, by themselves. And this one, Perseverance, was the first one to land in a tricky area, chosen for its science potential; instead of all previous landers who tried to land in big flat areas. Science marches on.

The Perseverance rover is also going to gather samples to be picked up and returned to Earth on near future missions. I plan on continuing to blog until then. Though my erstwhile assistant wants me to try vlogging. She has a point. The deep freeze continues in Northern Iowa. No news about my father, he is alive or dead. Stay safe and warm everyone.  God bless. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: First image from the just landed NASA Perseverance Mars lander, with a photoshopped recent viral Bernie Sanders image. Attribution unknown, claimed as Fair Use under US Copyright Law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 18, 2021 at 8:56 pm

HISTORY QUIZ!

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As per a commenter’s suggestion, a history quiz. No particular topic but since my main interest is military history, that will be the lion’s share of the questions. Ten questions, some trivia, some obscure, most because I thought they were interesting in some ways. (Basically this is just an excuse for me to tell stories about history. People do the most amazing sheet.) Pencil and paper required if one wants to be serious I suppose. Answers at bottom.Good luck, enjoy!

  1. How many times was Greenland colonised? Including successful and unsuccessful attempts. By human beings, just to be clear. The 47 failed penguin colonies don’t count.
  2. What exotic animal did Roman Emperor Commodus publicly slay in the colosseum to demonstrate his godhood? (No, I’m not making these up, people do weird sheet.)
  3. Who was Gil-Galad’s standard bearer at the siege of Barad Dur?
  4. How many tanks did Germany build in World War One? (World War One, not World War Two, where they built thousands.)
  5. What was the only daylight surface battle between battleships in World War Two?
  6. Everyone (well, primarily Americans I expect) knows about the first battle between ironclad warships, the Monitor vs the Merrimac during the American Civil War. What was the only battle ever fought between two fleets of ironclad warships? (Hint, no, it wasn’t during the American Civil War.)
  7. What weapon did a fully armored knight typically carry into battle during the late Middle Ages?
  8. When the British attacked the City of Buenos Aires during the 2nd Battle of Buenos Aires, how many directions did they attack from?
  9. What was the greatest defeat of an American army by native warriors during America’s conquest of the western Americas?
  10. When was the only time an entire American army surrendered to an enemy army?

ANSWERS:

  1. Greenland was colonized at least five times, only twice successfully. Pretty good for a remote barely inhabitable island. There were at least two failed North American native colonizations before the Vikings arrived in 980. The Viking settlement failed due to being cut off from Europe by the Little Ice Age. While the Vikings were there, the Inuit settled in Northern Greenland, the first successful colonization of Greenland. The Viking colony died out, but they returned some centuries later in the second successful colonization of Greenland.
  2. Emperor Commodus went nuts in his later years, deciding he was Hercules reborn, naming Rome after himself and other nonsense. He “fought” many gladiators in the Colosseum, though none actually fought him, they were all wise enough to know that submitting right away was their only chance of living to sundown. And Commodus was still sane enough to know that killing men who submitted to him in public wasn’t wise. (He had no such qualms about killing men in gladiator practice. Gladiators were slaves by the way.) This was all considered outrageous by the Romans, as if the US President decided to take up WWE wrestling. The animal he killed to prove his godhood? A giraffe. While very few Romans had ever seen a giraffe, they could tell it was just a helpless terrified exotic animal, the killing impressed no one. Though it further cemented opinion that the Emperor was losing it.
  3. Elrond! What, fantasy history is history, right? (Recounted in the Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien.)
  4. Germany ordered only a 100 A7V tanks (see image)  during the course of World War One. The Allies built thousands. And only 15-20 of the German tanks were completed in time to see action. They didn’t change the course of the war of course, but they did get to be part of the world’s first tank battle.
  5. The Battle of the Denmark Strait. Two British battleships vs the Nazi battleship Bismark and cruiser Prinz Eugen. This is the one where the Bismark sunk the Hood with one shot, the flagship of the British fleet. One of the flashes in this film (taken from the Prinz Eugen during the battle blew up the Hood killing 1500 Brits. Three Brits survived.
  6. The Battle of Lissa, 1866, between Italy and Austria. A brilliantly led Austrian fleet defeated a much larger but incompetently led Italian fleet. IThe battle basically accomplished nothing except humiliating the Italians: The Italian fleet got home, its admiral declared he’d won a great victory even though two of Italy’s finest warships had gone down, and he was the toast of the town. He probably got laid, but that’s just historical conjecture. By the next day word got to Italy that no Austrian ships had been sunk, and the admiral’s partying days limply ended.
  7. A sword! No, of course not, what good would a sword do against a guy wearing steel armor? A hammer of some sort was their primary weapon, designed specifically to damage armor. The sword though was already steeped in mythology, and certainly was still widely in use, just not against guys wearing armor.
  8. 12. That’s right, they attacked a hostile city from twelve different directions. In 1808. This was part of one of Britain’s tragicomedy attempts to conquer Spanish colonies in South America. Britain made a number of attempts to seize the supposedly weak colonies from Spain’s decaying and definitely weak empire, all ended badly. In this case the British commander apparently thought the tiny number of Spanish troops in the city would be quickly located and defeated. And if the residents of the city had stood meekly by and watched, great plan. No, the residents, including quite a few actual militias (no bison horns, Chewbacca robes, or silly flags) didn’t particularly want to be part of the Spanish Empire (Argentina would be independent within a decade;) but the definitely didn’t want to be conquered and ruled by Britain. It ended badly for Britain, thousands dead all told and a humiliating surrender.
  9. No, it wasn’t Little Big Horn, that was just the most famous native defeat of American forces. It was in 1791, The Battle of the Thousand Slain, or as the less imaginative Americans called it, The Battle of the Wabash. Basically a poorly planned, poorly equipped, poorly supplied, poorly manned, and most especially poorly led American army marched into what was then the wilderness of Ohio to teach the natives a lesson for defeating an American army the previous year! Even the not particularly astute reader can guess how this turned out. 24 Americans out of about 1,000 made it back safely.
  10. The Siege of Detroit, during the War of 1812, America’s misbegotten attempt to make Canada the “14th colony” of the United States. Basically a brilliant British general psyched out the American commander, and tricked him into surrendering to a much smaller British/native army.

That’s that, some of this was from memory, if I made any egregious mistakes please excoriate me in a comment. I write history posts provoke thought and curiosity, not to recount history for academic purposes.  Don’t worry, more Trump antics soon enough. What a time to be alive. Future blog suggestions welcome. I hope everyone had a safe and warm weekend. I’m ready for spring. #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2021 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Captured world War One German tank “Mephisto.” Australians captured it, hauled it back to Australia, where it’s in a war museum and is indeed the only German World War One tank still in existence. Photo taken in 1918 and is Public Domain under applicable copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 24, 2021 at 8:10 pm

WAS LINCOLN A MONSTER? THE DAKOTA WAR AND AMERICA’S LARGEST MASS HANGING.

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Today a trip down history lane, Lincoln and the largest mass hanging in US history. On 26 December 1862 38 Indians were hung by the US Army in Mankato, Minnesota. I’ve seen a number of memes and discussions on Facebook about this event, and frankly I’m usually horrified by how it’s portrayed and discussed. Mostly discussion involves just what a farce their trials were, and they weren’t even up to the standards of the day; plus throwing in Lincoln as the bad guy in all of this. Lately I’ve seen a number of memes etc. to the effect that Lincoln was some sort of racist monster. I hate black and white depictions of complex historical events and people, they usually leave a lot out.

In any event, The Dakota War, the event that led to this mass execution. Minnesota was a frontier state at the time, it had only been a state for four years. Yes, natives were treated badly by America pretty much from the get go, privately genocide was the often path taken by whites. Cultural genocide was the national policy. There’d been a lot of conflict as settlers moved onto land basically just stolen from the people living there. Thus a lot of resentment on the natives part. And one day a native hunting party massacred a settler family, and that instigated a general uprising.

Numerous bands and tribes began to kill settlers in a bid to convince Americans to flee the region. Between 500 and 800 settlers were killed, often in truly heinous ways. Several small towns were completely destroyed, all their inhabitants killed or taken prisoner. Initially there was little resistance because this was the height of the Civil War and there were no federal troops in Minnesota at all. It should be pointed out that not all the native bands and tribes in the region participated, a number of chiefs refused to participate, one even ordered his warriors to protect the American settlers living nearby.

Within months though a combination of hastily organized militias and federal troops fought and won a number of battles with the Dakota,  put down the uprising, and imprisoned hundreds of natives. The army tried over 300 of them for war crimes and sentenced them all to hang, 303 death sentences to be exact. And for the most part, Americans were just fine with this. The governor of Minnesota even warned that if they weren’t all hung, private citizens would enact their own retribution on whatever natives they could. We are talking about hundreds of settler families murdered, many memorials to those killed remain today.

And this is where Lincoln’s involvement comes in. He was, shall we say, kinda busy during this time. The Civil War was raging. He worked from before dawn to just before bed most days, his wife said she was lucky if she got 15 minutes of his company before he fell asleep at night. So he didn’t need to get involved at all, he could have just let the army hang all 303 prisoners, and that would have been that. That wasn’t Lincoln though, he personally reviewed every federal death sentence handed down during the Civil War, and he made no exception here. He had the trial transcripts, such as they were, sent to Washington, and over a month reviewed them all. And he commuted the death sentences of all but 39 of them, later commuting one more when a general wired him that new information cast doubt on one indian’s guilt.

And by every accounting, Lincoln was horrified by the corrupt and unjust way natives were treated, saying “If we get through this war, and I live, this Indian system shall be reformed.” He also said something to the effect that “You can’t hang an Indian just because he joined an uprising at his chief’s command.” Lincoln grew up on the frontier, and knew in fact how badly natives were treated. During the Blackhawk war he prevented his own men from murdering a native that wandered into their camp. Maybe if the Civil war hadn’t intervened he could have started reforms and maybe the whole damn uprising never would have happened.

So yeah, a shameful chapter in American history. As is almost all of America’s history with the natives, and it’s still not exactly something to be proud of today. When Reagan visited the Soviet Union and pressed them on their human rights record, the Russian premier brought up America’s treatment of its natives. Reagan said “Why, we treat them fine. I’ll meet with Indians any day to discuss their concerns!” When he got back to Washington, a delegation of native leaders was literally waiting in front of the White House to meet with him. He refused.

All that being said, I don’t see how Lincoln comes off as the bad guy in this. It seems popular these days to portray Lincoln as a racist, but the cherry picked quotes I have seen don’t support that. Yes, he did regard whites as the “superior” race, that was kind of the scientific view at the time. However, and it’s a huge however, Lincoln thought that meant it was more important than ever to treat them with the exact same dignity and justice as anyone else. This was a man who his whole life was concerned with justice and fairness. He wasn’t popular among his fellow lawyers for example because he charged people what they could afford, and wouldn’t take on unjust cases.

And I’m no fan of Lincoln. As I have said before “Lincoln didn’t free the slaves, he enslaved the rest of us.” Lincoln was the one that laid the groundwork for the enormously expanded bloated monstrosity the federal government is today. Maybe if he had lived to finish his work, the country might be a better place today. In any event, even allowing the “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart…’ I think that whatever the result, Lincoln was an honorable man trying to leave the world a better place than he found it. Something I would say of very few other presidents.

Tomorrow, more covid horror and Trump’s fantasy about winning the election gets ever weirder. Stay safe, warm, and sane everyone.  #StaytheFHome #WearaDamnMask #FelesRegula

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Attack on New Ulm” Oil on canvas, 1904, Anton Gag. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

January 2, 2021 at 6:41 pm